“If you expect my opinion, I’m not going to expose it. But I will explain why”. This is how the presenter Andrei Norkin began to speak on November 10 on the private channel NTV to comment on the withdrawal of the Russian troops Khersonterritory recognized as Russian by Moscow, but considered Ukrainian by the international community. “If I support the decision to withdraw (…) I am publicly supporting a violation of the Russian territorial integrity“, he continued. And if he positions himself against the decision of the Ministry of Defense to abandon Kherson, then he was “publicly discrediting to the Russian Armed Forces, he added. Norkin concluded this intervention by recalling that both convictions can lead to fines and years in prison and stating that he does not want to go to prison.

    Specifically, the cited articles of the Russian Criminal Code have been revised in the last decade and both are offenses related to extremism. The most recent is the case of 280.3, which punishes the ‘fake news‘ about the Russian Army and any attempt to discredit to the Russian Armed Forces, which was modified in March of this 2022. “Public actions aimed at discrediting the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to protect the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens”, specifies the Russian legislation. According to official data, in the last three months 2,500 people have been fined for violating this law, who have jointly paid the equivalent of €1.5 million. When the offense is repeated is when there can be jail sentences, as is the case of the former mayor of Yekaterinburg Yevgueni Roizman, arrested at the end of August 2022 for “discrediting the Russian Army.”

    In this framework, people who refer to the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, officially “a special military operation“, as a “war” or “invasion”, especially to the media. At the beginning of the offensive a few independent media did use this terminology, such as Novaya Gazeta, which on its February 25 front page headlined “Russia bombs Ukraine.” However, no Russian journalists currently deviate from the official narrative when it comes to the Ukrainian front after the closure and/or departure of many outlets from the country and the turnaround of those who stayed. Although there is scope for criticism of the developing of the conflict, there is no such for the existence of the offensive itself.

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    The other article that the presenter mentioned is 280.1, which establishes that any position that goes against the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation He will be harshly punished with fines and up to six years in prison. The article specifies that “any public call to carry out actions aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation”. This part of the Russian Criminal Code was changed on different occasions, in 2014 and 2020. These reforms were closely related to the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, since criticizing it or publicly claiming that Crimea is part of Ukraine (or should be) became punishable under Russian law.These changes also mean that under the current Russian Constitution, it is unconstitutional to cede any part of the Russian Federation to another country.

    This rule also applies to the newly annexed eastern and southern Ukrainian territories such as Kherson itself, Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Lugansk. In addition, it also fights any attempt to secede from any of its regions, as happened in the 90s with Chechnya. However, Russia has supported separatist movements in different countries that belonged to the Soviet Union, such as Donetsk and Lugansk – recognized by Moscow as independent states of Ukraine for a brief period of time this 2022 -, Transnistria in Moldova or Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia.